For once, Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo is feeling pressure instead of causing it. A year ago, the former Texas standout seemed guaranteed to receive a long-term mega contract from the team that drafted him in 2009. Now, entering the final year of his rookie contract, the Redskins front office is reluctant to sign such a deal due to injury concerns. Orakpo originally injured his shoulder and pectoral muscle in the final game of the 2011 season. After off-season surgery, he suffered a setback during the 2012 preseason and tore a different muscle in the same pectoral during the second game of the year. After recording 28.5 sacks in his first three seasons, Orakpo was limited to one in 2012.
Orakpo claims he is back to “100-percent” and will participate in the team’s OTAs later this month, though it is not known to what extent. In an interview with CSN Washington in April, Orakpo spoke confidently about his return: “I’m not really an injury type of guy. Sitting out was very uncommon for myself. But I have some huge goals for myself this year, some huge goals for this team. I’m ready to wreak havoc.” More recently, Orakpo told The Washington Times‘ Rich Campbell that he would like to remain “a Redskin for life.”
However, the Redskins front office would like to see him prove his worth on the field before issuing another contract. The team has not officially discussed a contract extension with the linebacker, and there is no time table to do so. The Redskins have no incentive to sign him at the moment; Orakpo’s asking price is likely to be high and the team has the ability to use the franchise tag if a deal cannot be reached. Still, the team also has to consider the price tag the linebacker would receive on the open market if he is able to return to form this season.
With the “wait-and-see” policy in place, the pressure is firmly on Orakpo to produce. His 2013 season is worth millions of dollars. The injury that ended his 2012 season may have been a “freak accident,” but these are commonplace in the NFL and have ruined many aspiring careers. Orakpo’s health will continue to be one of the most compelling story lines of the off-season in Washington.